Learning to Swim, Redux

On this trip to New Zealand I anticipated opportunities for snorkeling, maybe even scuba diving, and kayaking. But, in the past, just thinking about such things caused panic attacks, and I didn’t want to stand on the sidelines with my heart pounding fearfully during any part of my trip. Knowing I had to do something different, I started thinking about myself as a client and how I would coach someone through this.

The process started with my thoughts. What was my purpose in wanting to feel comfortable in the water? How would my life be better? What was the purpose of the fear, and what could I do to meet that need in more helpful ways?

I wrote about taking swimming lessons to help overcome the fear here. But what I didn’t mention was that as I would drive to the pool, I would picture beautiful images of water from New Zealand. I focused on that as I changed, stepped in to the pool and took my lessons. I was swimming towards that beauty and peace.

There weren’t any opportunities to test out my new skills and confidence until the last day of our month long trip. While visiting the city of Akaroa, we rented a two-person sea kayak and took it out in the Harbor.

When we got up that morning, I was excited. When we rented the kayak, I was calm. When we got in the kayak and started paddling, I had a smile on my face. We paddled for about 90 minutes, nearing the opening of the harbour and the Pacific ocean. The water started to have larger swells, and I remained calm.

We’d reached the area where a pod of Hector’s dolphins lived. These are the smallest and rarest of cetaceans.

The locals had told us that the dolphins are attracted to singing and banging against the side of the kayak. So we started, feeling a little foolish, wondering if it was a trick they liked to play on the tourists. And then we saw them. Three dolphins swam in rhythm directly toward us. Arcing gracefully out of the water with each breath. They were beautiful.

More and more joined us, at one point there must have been a least a dozen or more swimming in groups of three and four. It was hard to leave them, but we knew we had to get back to land, so we started paddling home. The weather changed, and it started to rain. We paddled against a strong head wind. The return trip took more than twice as long. When we pulled the kayak up on the beach, wet, tired and hungry I realized something – never once did I feel anxious or worried about being in the water. What a change!

1 comment to Learning to Swim, Redux

  • Shannon,

    Your story is really inspiring. To go from panic attacks at the thought of going in water all the way to being able to keep your cool while paddling in the rain against a high wind is amazing. If you can do that for yourself, helping your clients with their issues must be a breeze!

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